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Amber Paulen

Henry Miller and the Life Abundant

24 February 2007


You are a fish in the ocean of time, you are a constant in an ocean of change, you are nothing and everything at one and the same time. — The Immortality of Mortality, Stand Still Like a Hummingbird

Henry Valentine Miller. The name, the man and the writer have managed to sear themselves into me so completely that if ever the need for extraction arose there would ensue an arduous and painful production. Thankfully, that need will never arise.

Is it merely coincidental that my birth was the advent to his death? As I wailed bloody from the womb, he lay on peaceful wings coasting over the sunset of a life well lived. There were twenty-four hours for an ephemeral communion of spirits and that was the only time I shared with him on earth. On more grounded terms, I once picked up Tropic of Cancer on recommendation of a friend and have yet to set it down.

A book lives through the passionate recommendation of one reader to another. Nothing can throttle this basic impulse in the human being. Despite the views of cynics and misanthropes, it is my belief that men will always strive to share their deepest experiences. — The Books in My Life

Henry Miller came to me during the most spectral upheaval incurred in my life so far, not as guide, but as an illumination, a swaying lamp ever ready with the joyous and the wondrous, the destroyed and the destructible. He allowed me to prove to myself that heights dreamed of were obtainable; he brought me closer to the depths of my soul and the great grisly being I dared to call self. He came to me with premonitions of I as writer. He spurred me on.

I found I was in desperate need of Henry Miller’s sharp honesty. He stands naked, in blatant refusal to shroud himself in even a sheet. He stands screaming with all his might, explosions, so that those who are doomed may eventually be freed. He wails to help us find our way closer to ourselves, honestly.

Above all, we should cease postponing the act of becoming what in fact and essence we are. — Plexus

What is our honest naked self? Stripped of all influences of society, ransacked of all prefabricated ideals, pulled down into the dust as a serpent on its belly. “Becoming what in fact and essence we are.” Repeat it. Repeat it again. Say it as many times as necessary to get it through your head. For there is no pure saint and no pure devil. With one foot stuck in the muck of degradation while the other is hovered over the pristine glass of an almighty benefactor, we have two feet all the same. Now think about it, honestly.

To admit to ourselves our baseness, to revel in it, is essential. It is the cancer bred by humans that will be the destruction of the world. Why fight it? You have already been inexorably weaved into it. For America our cancer is our ideals, it is our suburbia devouring forest and field, it is our convenience, which has become a lustful desire the whole world round, our supermarkets and our petrol guzzling frenzy, our quest in the name of humanity for “democracy”. Why not stop for a second? Why not run to the hills to converse with the magnanimity flowing through every living thing as you listen patiently to the universality rustling through the tall pine boughs as they stretch forever upward? To decide for yourself. Honestly.

Turmoil and chaos are the keystone around which the earlier Tropics pivot. Henry Miller, in determination to leave a scar on the world did so by first revealing humanity. He employed obscenities as tools to grab the reader’s attention, to shake the reader, to jar the reader out of a prefabricated belief so completely so that there is no choice but to listen. There has always remained a relevancy for Henry Miller since the earth itself was created.

The task of genius, and man is nothing if not genius, is to keep the miracle alive, to live always in the miracle, to make the miracle more and more miraculous, to swear allegience to nothing, but live only miraculously, die miraculously. Today our attention is centered upon the physical inexhaustibility of the universe, we must concentrate our thought upon that solid fact, because never before has man plundered and devastated to such a degree as today. We are therefore prone to forget that in the realm of the spirit there is also an inexhaustibility, that in this realm no gain is ever lost.

Only after the curtain of chaos fell, Henry Miller became the soothsayer. When one dives deep enough into ones own soul, into one’s atoms, it is initially chaotic. Through the self-observation during this dark and treacherous journey wrapped by a constant state of becoming, one’s self can finally stand revealed. Or in Miller’s words, become the ‘I of one’s I.’

Henry Miller’s message conveyed through his works of fiction and non-fiction, have been repeated since time immemorial. It is a message of peace, inward peace fueled by an unremitting hope. As Jesus himself once said, ‘the peace that passeth understanding,’ For the old ways of the world are dying fast. It is our responsibility as humans to invoke the gods we undoubtedly are, a new wave of consciousness will rise out of our collective potential. What action you must take you already know, ask yourself honestly and the truth may be revealed.



Commentary for Henry Miller and the Life Abundant


1 On Thursday 31 July 2008 Liz Jones wrote:

I first discovered HM one year after he died, and I will never stop reading his books. They themselves are like the fabulous meals he describes and I will always be grateful to him for being able to retain some semblance of sanity


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